Reason #5 to Self-Pub: Not Being In Debt to a Publisher for your Advance

The upside of getting an advance is…well, getting an advance. The downside is if you don’t deliver something the publisher deems is acceptable you have to pay it back. With interest!

A story in yesterday’s Smoking Gun highlights multiple lawsuits filed recently by Penguin “against several prominent writers who failed to deliver books for which they received hefty contractual advances…”

The suits look to recover advances and interest from:

* “Prozac Nation” author Elizabeth Wurtzel, who signed a $100,000 deal in 2003 to write “a book for teenagers to help them cope with depression.” Penguin wants Wurtzel, to return her $33,000 advance (and at least $7,500 in interest).

* Blogger Ana Marie Cox, who signed in 2006 to author a “humorous examination of the next generation of political activists,” is being dunned for her $81,250 advance (and at least $50,000 in interest). Her Penguin contract totaled $325,000.

* Rebecca Mead, a staff writer at The New Yorker, owes $20,000 (and at least $2000 in interest), according to Penguin, which struck a $50,000 deal in 2003 for “a collection of the author’s journalism.”

* Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat was signed for $40,000 in 2008 to describe how he “survived a concentration camp because of a young girl who snuck him food. 17 years later the two met on a blind date and have been together ever since, married 50 years.” While Rosenblat’s story was hailed by Oprah Winfrey as the “single greatest love story” she had told on the air, it turned out to be a fabrication. Penguin wants him to repay a $30,000 advance (and at least $10,000 in interest).

* “Hip-Hop Minister” Conrad Tillard signed an $85,000 Penguin contract in 2005 for a memoir about his “epic journey from the Ivy League to the Nation of Islam,” and his subsequent falling out with Louis Farrakhan. The publishing house’s lawsuit is seeking the repayment of about $38,000 from Tillard.

  • Keri

    See, this is why we like being indie. We pay ourselves and (hopefully) don’t get sued so easily.